Ministries, we’ve had some interesting discussions and
received some interesting emails.
Not surprisingly, while we have been blessed to
receive some wonderful, encouraging notes from visitors to
our site, we’ve also received our share of hate mail. Among the most virulent and spiteful of the comments we’ve
received were those that came not from Muslims, Mormons,
or Catholics; but rather from Christians in the KJO (King
James Only) camp. The
KJO crowd believes that the only “authorized” version
of the Bible is the King James Version (KJV), and all
modern translations are perversions of the Word of God.
I’ve even had one KJO apologist tell me that the
KJV is the “only true Word of God.”
The fact that many of the verses on our website
have been taken from the New International Version (NIV)
proved to him that we have been deceived by Satan.
This caused me to undertake a serious study of the
history of the KJV and other translations of the Bible.
I present to you now, the fruits of that study.
First, let me
reassure the KJV users that nothing in my study has caused
me to consider discarding my copy of the KJV.
I have always used it and will continue to do so,
in conjunction with other translations.
It is not my intent to cast aspersions on the KJV
translation, nor upon its translators, who were good,
God-fearing men who did a wonderful service for the Lord.
The focus of this article is not any particular
version of the Bible, but rather the contention that the
KJV is the only “authorized version” of the Word of
God. There are many people who prefer the KJV over any other
version, but would not be considered KJO, as they make no
claim that the KJV is the only authorized Word of God.
This article does not address preferences for one
version over another, but rather it speaks to claims of
the absolute and exclusive supremacy of the KJV.
My wife has informed me that I have a habit of
prefacing too much in daily conversation, but I think for
this article it is necessary.
Having sufficiently prefaced, let us now examine
the history of the KJV and modern translations.
Let us also discover if some modern translations
have removed precious truths from the Bible.
The whole issue
of Biblical accuracy could be quickly put to rest if we
had in our possession the original writings of the
prophets and apostles.
These original writings, called “autographs”,
have not been discovered.
Yet it is they that were penned under the direct
and inerrant inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
The Bible tells us that
scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is]
profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for
instruction in righteousness”
(2 Timothy 3:16, KJV).
2 Peter 1:21 tells us that “For the prophecy
came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of
God spake [as they were] moved by the Holy Ghost.”
In this verse, the Greek pheromene refers to
being carried along, like a ship moved by the wind.
In other words, the Holy Spirit directly influenced
what was originally written by Moses, John, Paul, etc.
I think it would be nice if we were in possession of the
autographs, but perhaps it is best that we aren’t.
If we had the actual texts penned by Luke, Paul, or
John, they could become revered to the point of becoming
idols in the faith. After
all, it is not the written word that is the object of our
worship, but rather the living Word – Jesus
Old Testament autographs were written primarily in Hebrew
(except for Daniel, which was written in Aramaic – a
cousin to Hebrew). The
New Testament autographs were written in Koine Greek.
In order for the Word of God to spread across the
globe, to reach people of different languages and carry on
through time, it became necessary for the autographs to be
copied by scribes, and translated into other languages.
These scribes hand copied the original writings
onto papyrus and parchment manuscripts.
In fact, the word manuscript means “hand
are many early manuscripts in existence today.
The main concern with the copying and translation
process was maintaining accuracy.
Many of us will remember the children’s game of
“Telephone”, and recall how, after several
transmissions, there were inaccuracies from what was
originally spoken. That
is true even with the biblical manuscripts.
Among the multitude of manuscripts, we find one to
two percent of the Bible has relevant variations.
However, these variations do not alter the main
messages in the Word of God. God promised His Word would
be preserved. Jesus
said “The scripture cannot be broken” (John
also said, “heaven and earth shall pass away, but my
words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).
Peter stated that the living and abiding word of
God is imperishable (1 Peter 1:23).
Isaiah said that “The grass withereth, the
flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for
ever” (Isaiah 40:8).
This great promise of God stands fulfilled.
After twenty centuries of copying and translating,
the key points of the Word of God stand as they always
A Dutch Roman
Catholic Priest and Greek scholar named Desiderius
Erasmus published his first Greek New Testament in 1516.
Erasmus put this text together quickly and
haphazardly, and numerous revisions followed.
From a preface to one of the revisions we get the
name “Textus Receptus.”
The TR was collated from a relatively small
collection (about five or six texts) of Byzantine-era
Greek texts dating back to about the twelfth to fourteenth
century AD. In
his haste to beat the competition to press, Erasmus made
the mistake of including some margin notes from the
Byzantine texts into the verses of the TR. It is largely from the TR that the New Testament of the KJV
‘MODERN’ TRANSLATION – CIRCA 1611
In 1611, under
the rule of King James, a modern translation of the Bible
was produced. It
was the first edition of the King James Version of the
Bible. The purpose of this new translation was to provide a version
of the Bible written in the common language of the time. It was to serve as a Bible that everyone could understand.
As a preface to the 1611 KJV, the translators wrote
a message entitled “The Translators to the Reader.”
In it, they said, “happy is the man that
delighteth in the Scripture and thrice happy that meditate
in it day and night.
But how shall man meditate in that which they
cannot understand? How
shall they understand that which is kept close [veiled] in
an unknown tongue?… [Contemporary] Translation it is
that opens the window, to let in the light….indeed,
without translation into the vulgar [common] tongue, the
unlearned are but like children at Jacob’s well (which
was deep) without a bucket or something to draw with…”
(pages 3,4). This being said, it is apparent that the KJV translators
would not object to modern translations if the intent were
the same – to produce a translation understandable in
the common language. The translators made no claim that the KJV was to be the only
authorized version of the Bible.
In fact, they stated, “a variety of translation
is profitable for finding out the sense of the
their own words, it is apparent that the KJV translators
would not be among the ardent KJO crowd.
Contrary to what
some in the KJO camp believe, the 1611 KJV was not without
fact, it took several subsequent editions to arrive at the
version that is in use today.
For instance, in the 1611 edition, Matthew 26:36
said, “Then cometh Judas”. Today, the KJV renders that verse as “Then cometh Jesus.”
This is a rather significant difference.
The first edition also contained the Apocryphal
books, which were removed in subsequent editions.
The 1613 edition inadvertently left the word
“not” out of the seventh commandment, thereby
encouraging people to commit adultery.
This edition became known as the “Wicked
edition earned the nickname “Unrighteous Bible”
because it stated that the unrighteous would
inherit the kingdom of heaven.
Furthermore, in using Erasmus’ TR as the basis of
the New Testament, many of Erasmus’ additions of margin
notes into the text of the verses found their way into the
verses in the KJV. We’ll
go more into this quirk shortly.
In the years
since the KJV came about in 1611, and even since the most
recent major revisions in 1769, some wonderful discoveries
have come to light. In
Konstantin von Tischendorf discovered nearly 350 pages of
an early Greek text containing all the New Testament
discovered this volume in St. Catherine’s monastery on
Mt. Sinai, and it became known as the Codex Sinaiticus.
This Greek New Testament was dated to the mid 4th
century AD. Another discovery, the Codex
Vaticanus, is a volume of 757 vellum sheets containing
most of the works of the Bible, and it dates to the early
4th century AD.
Other papyri fragments have been discovered that
date to the early 2nd century AD!
In fact, literally thousands of pieces of the Bible
have been discovered dating earlier than the Byzantine
texts that were the foundation of the Textus Receptus.
These earlier texts formed the foundation for many
of the modern translations in use today, including the NIV
and the NASB. Thinking
back to the game of Telephone, wouldn’t you consider
someone who was twice or three times removed from the
original messenger a more reliable source than someone who
was ten or twelve times removed?
If we can’t get to the original autographs, we
would want to at least get to the earliest manuscripts
purpose behind many of the modern translations was the
same as the purpose behind the 1611 KJV translation – to
provide an accurate rendition of the Bible in the common
language of the day.
A benefit the NIV and NASB translators had that the
KJV translators did not have was access to earlier
BETWEEN KJV AND MODERN TRANSLATIONS
I received an
email from a young man I’ve been discipling, and he was
quite distressed that some verses are not found in the NIV
that are in the KJV.
He wondered why the NIV translators would have left
those verses out. Indeed,
there are several verses that seem to be missing from the
NIV (partial list: Matt 17:21, Mark 7:16, Mark 11:26, Acts
8:37, Acts 9:6). There
are other verses that seem much shorter in the NIV.
In the KJV, John 6:47 reads, “He that believeth
on me hath everlasting life.”
In modern translations, the same verse reads, “He
who believes has eternal life,” with the words “on
me” left out. Did
the NIV and NASB leave verses and portions of verses out?
Well, not exactly.
The earliest manuscripts found do not contain those
verses and extra phrases.
Those are, in fact, additions to the KJV,
rather than subtractions in later translations.
Some of those words and verses do appear as margin
notes in some early texts, but were clearly not part of
the verses. Does this make the KJV a bad translation?
Of course not. The addition of those verses and phrases do not alter the
doctrines of the Bible; rather, they clarify the text.
Insofar as these additions do not compromise the
key messages of Scripture, and serve to clarify or explain
them, I have no objections to these KJV additions to
Scripture. But we must not fall for the KJO argument that the NIV or
NASB translators removed Scripture.
If that is the case, then the scribes who wrote the
earliest known manuscripts committed the same error.
between the KJV and modern translations are due to
One example of this is John 3:36.
In the KJV, this verse reads, “He that believeth
not the Son shall not see life,” whereas the NASB says,
“He who does not obey the Son shall not see life.”
Are we talking about disbelief or disobedience?
This difference comes from the translation of the
Greek word apeitheo.
In English, many of our words have many possible
Greek, this is even more prevalent.
However, most Greek words will have a primary
meaning, and other secondary meanings will be construed
based on context. Apeitheo
can mean either unbelief or disobedience.
However, the NASB translators chose the primary
meaning for the word.
The KJV translators also applied this meaning to apeitheo
when it appears in 1 Peter 3:1, 4:16, and Romans 2:8.
Does this difference in translation cause an
important doctrinal discrepancy? I contend that it does not.
True faith or belief in the Son will naturally
result in obedience to the Son.
The key doctrines of grace and salvation are not
affected by this translational difference.
It is clear from
a study of the earliest known manuscripts, that the NIV
and NASB translations are closest to the original text.
The addition of verses and phrases in the KJV are
mostly explanatory in nature, and do not cause doctrinal
differences between the KJV and modern translations amount
to about one percent of the text.
Yet the KJO proponents are often virulent and
spiteful in the arguments that the KJV is the only
authorized Word of God.
proponents complain that the NIV translation committee was
loaded with homosexuals.
They argue that this sexual sin that pervaded the
committee must have skewed the translation in favor of
homosexuals. Is this true?
It is true that
lesbian sympathizer Virginia Mollencott was involved with
the NIV development.
However, she was not a translator, and had nothing
to do with the translation.
She served on the literary (stylistic) committee of
the NIV for a few months. Once her sexual views were known, she was promptly asked to
resign. At no
time did her work impact the translation of the NIV.
Any reasonable person reading the NIV can see
clearly that homosexuality is condemned as a sin.
ISSUE OF READABILITY
earlier, the purpose of the KJV translators was to produce
a translation that was understood in the common language
of the day. That
is also a driving force behind many of the modern
is, in fact, why we cite verses from the NIV in our
articles more frequently than we cite verses from the KJV.
Tests show that reading and comprehending the KJV
requires a 12th grade reading level.
In contrast, the NASB requires an 11th
grade reading level, and the NIV only a 7.8.
I still use the
KJV quite a bit for my own use, and when witnessing to
Mormons and others who are more familiar with the KJV.
Yet some of the words that were common language 400
years ago are not so common today. Consider the following words and phrases from the KJV:
“ceiled” (Haggai 1:4), “clouted upon their feet”
(Joshua 9:5), “cotes” (2 Chronicles 32:28),
“sackbut” (Daniel 3:5), “brigandines” (Jeremiah
46:4), “wen” (Leviticus 22:22), “tabret” (Genesis
31:27), etc. That’s
not including other KJV words such as almug, neesing,
chode, habergeon, etc.
Even as I write these words, my spell-checker is
creating a sea of red in this paragraph!
demonstrated that from the standpoint of accuracy, modern
translations stack up as well as the KJV, and better in
some areas. From
an issue of readability, each is left to his or her own
me, I will continue to use both my NIV and my KJV in my
studies and witnessing.
article is not meant to change anyone’s preference for
which Bible translation they use. The KJO debate is not about preference.
Rather, it is about claims of exclusive
“authorization” of the KJV as the Word of God, and
perceived heresy of modern translations.
Yet having read both versions, I can attest that no
doctrine is compromised in any way in my NIV.
This controversy has split congregations and
denominations…all because of one percent of the
Bible that presents no doctrinal discrepancies.
This is akin to pummeling your neighbor for saying
to-may-to, when you say to-mah-to.
Is this really a battle the bride of Christ should
be fighting within herself?